Apr 30, 2010

Santa Fe, Will Grayson and Happy Día!

Happy Día - El Día de los niños/El Día de los libros, Children's Day/Book Day! We’re big Día fans and work with our client Pat Mora to promote it throughout the year. This year we celebrated with Díapalooza on Pat’s Bookjoy blog – check it out here!

We just happen to be in Santa Fe today, working with Pat, and it’s cold but as beautiful as ever. It just started snowing as I wrote that sentence – looks like another great day for reading!

I just finished the galley of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, written by John Green and David Levithan. I’ve enjoyed both of their past books, so it was fun to read this joint effort – and I think this truly is a story that’s never been told before. I’ve read just about every YA book with a gay character, but this is the first time I’ve read about a gay boy who is best friends with a straight boy. At the heart of the book is the friendship between Will Grayson (#1) and Tiny Cooper. Tiny is waaaaay out there, and Will’s been friends with him since third grade. Then the two meet Will Grayson #2 – he’s also gay, and Tiny falls for him while Will #1 loses his heart to Jane. Wrapped around this core is the everyday life of teens - high school, relationships, parents and friendships – and I enjoyed watching the two friends navigate it all together.

Apr 19, 2010

Review -- The Popularity Papers

The Popularity Papers
by Amy Ignatow
Amulet Books/ Abrams, 2010
hardcover fiction, ages 9-13

Amy Ignatow’s debut novel is hilarious with a story (fifth grade girls want to crack the code of popularity) and format (almost graphic novel) that will absolutely delight readers. Lydia and Julia are best friends and concoct a plan for becoming popular -- observe the popular girls, record what they do and what they look like, and then conduct research experiments. We get to read their personal notebook that tells the whole story through handwritten notes and colorful, cartoony drawings. Their families -- Lydia’s single mom and Goth sister, and Julie’s two dads -- are right there with them. The results are sometimes unexpected, sometimes unwelcome, but true and often funny. There’ll be comparisons made to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and that’s a good thing.

We love books where LGBTQ families are just there, just part of the story.

Thanks to Abrams Books for sending us an ARC.

Apr 5, 2010


I like writing book reviews but it's hard work for me. It's a fine craft and one I'd like to become better at, so I keep writing because I believe that's how I can become a better reviewer. Reading reviews is another way and I do more of that than I do writing. I've been seriously reading reviews of children's books for about 25 years, first as a bookshop worker, then many years as a children's book buyer and head of collection development for library wholesalers and now as a freelancer. I began writing them only 5 years ago and have alot to learn. There are many reviewers I admire, some review for print publications and some are bloggers. I admire their writing style and their evaluative sense. I consider K.T. Horning's Cover to Cover the definitive guide to evaluation and refer to it all the time.

Over the past couple of weeks the word trope has showed up in a number of reviews I've read. The first time I read it, I had to look it up. (From Merriam-Webster -- 1 a : a word or expression used in a figurative sense : figure of speech b : a common or overused theme or device : cliché ) Just yesterday I read a Facebook post that remarked "watch those tropes" with a link to an enlightening Salon article about overused words in reviewing and Book Review Bingo, a new game to play so you can test yourself. I'm off to play now -- hmmm, maybe I'll post my score.

Question: I bet the words used in the game are ones found in reviews of adult books. Are there different words that show up more frequently in reviews of children's and ya titles?

Apr 1, 2010

Review -- Nature and Nonfiction

I'm not a real bird enthusiast, but possess a casual interest. There's a pair of horned owls at our RV park and I don't tire of listening to their eerie sounds or trying to catch a glimpse of them nesting in the palm trees.  I've become more acquainted with birds of the desert as the park is full of doves, cactus wrens and, my favorite, Gambel's Quail. These three titles about birds caught my casual interest.

The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound: a birder's journal 
by Sallie Wolf, designed by Micah Bornstein
Charlesbridge 2010
Hardcover Nonfiction
Ages 9-12

This is a lovely book of poems and more about bird identification and behavior, a textual and visual record of observations designed like a actual journal. The poems are brief, only a few reach 16-18 lines, and are mostly descriptive with some thoughtful, emotional overtones. The ink drawings and watercolors leave an immediate, ephemeral feel as if they were swiftly done rather than studied. Quick but not sloppy. The arrangement is by season, beginning with spring. Alongside the free-verse poems are an occasional haiku, lists of birds seen, and short notes such as "April 23 -- First sighting of a white-throat -- I've been hearing them for about 3 days." The poems appear in a traditional serif font, while notes and lists are hand-written. The journal-like feel is carried throughout. A note reads "Illustrations done in watercolors and pen and ink on Sallie's original journal pages and on handmade paper, then scanned and manipulated in Photoshop." I appreciate the author sharing her love of nature in such a creative way.
from one of my favorite poems "Robins Take a Bath"
Fluffy fledglings preen their feathers.
Four birds fly away.
Freshly groomed and tidy robins,
finished for the day.

Nest, Nook and Cranny
by Susan Blackaby, illustrated by Jamie Hogan
Charlesbridge 2010
Hardcover Nonfiction/Poetry
Ages 9-12

This one's only peripherally about birds, really. It's focus is animals and their habitats. The chapter headings -- Desert, Grassland, Shoreline, Wetland, Woodland -- each have a double page spread illustrating representative animals in the habitat. The untitled poems are a combination of free verse and various forms. Rather than noting the forms on the page where the poem appears they are noted in the back matter in a section titled "Writing Poetry" which also includes useful information about ideas and writing techniques like alliteration. The effective, black & white illustrations, done in mixed media and pastels and charcoal, complement and don't overwhelm the poems. One I like begins "The sweetest home sweet home must be a hive,/Humming with activities of bees. They never wipe their feet when they arrive;/They track their tacky nectar where they please." A gratifying melding of science, art and literature.

An Egret's Day
by Jane Yolen, photographs by Jason Stemple
Wordsong/Boyds Mills, 2010
Hardcover Nonfiction/ Poetry
Ages 9-12

Here's another appealing combination of science, poetry and art informing readers about the striking Great Egret, a migratory bird of the heron family. Double-page spread include a poem, short paragraph of factual information, and one or more stunning photographs of the bird in flight, on trees, in the water. As the title suggests the finely-crafted poems follow egrets from morning through evening and provide thoughtful observation. "Close-up" begins "As conscious of his beauty/As any Hollywood star,/The egret poses." and is accompanied by a head-and-shoulders shot of the bird, white feathers tinted with a rosy glow. The image, words and design work beautifully together. This is Yolen's and Stemple's fourteenth book together and they are a fine team.

Thanks to Charlesbridge and Raab Associates (for Jane Yolen's title) for providing review copies.